CANCUN (Centrobasket) - Puerto Rico started their summer on a low after losing to Germany in the final game of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament but they finished on a high by capturing gold at the Centrobasket in Mexico.
Manolo Cintron’s men beat the Virgin Islands 87-70 in the final for their ninth title in the competition but first since 2003.
“We managed to take gold, which was our aim,” said Filiberto Rivera, the playmaker who is instantly recognizable because of the goggles he wears on the court.
“Without the gold, it wouldn´t have mattered.
“We had to fight for it, though. We knew the potential we had to win this tournament. Now we are enjoying this success because we really needed something like this."
In July, Puerto Rico left Athens, Greece, full of disappointment after losing to Germany in the final game of the Olympic qualifying event.
Had they won that game, Cintron’s team would have advanced to the Olympics.
Rivera was on that team, as was Larry Ayuso. The sweet-shooting Ayuso wasn’t 100% in Cancun where the Centrobasket was played, but he nevertheless gave the team a lift.
"I am really happy,” he said.
“This is big for Puerto Rico and even more so because the young players enjoyed a good tournament.
“I think they grew a lot."
Ayuso played limited time in the first three games of the tournament due to an Achilles tendon injury.
"I remained positive and did what I could in the early games but my teammates did a great job.”